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Molyneux’s Curious Social Media Adventure Takes Gaming to New Interactive Level

Peter Molyneux wants to know you. The British game developer is the creator of the Fable game series and co-founder of Microsoft’s Lionhead Studios, but more recently he’s put together a studio called 22Cans that’s doing its best to know everything you’re willing to tell them about yourself.

To be more accurate, Molyneux’s new 22Cans studio wants to like or follow you in a big way by receiving permission to access your social media ramblings. The studio will build this information into a series of 22 experimental games aimed at creating the ultimate interactive gaming experience–in which you are a character.

During an interview with New Scientist magazine, Molyneux said the project’s ultimate goal is to create a single, larger game in which players are actual characters. The developer said he wants to create a final product that is highly personalized. He likened the planned end product to a made-up bedtime story in which the child who is listening is also one of the story’s central characters.

Curiouser and curiouser…

The first game in the experimental series is called “Curiosity.” Players use virtual chisels to create tiny fractures in a large, black cube containing a secret object. The cube will open after an unspecified number of taps, but only the person whose chisels open the cube will see the contents.

Although the game can be played for free, New Scientist notes that during the second phase of Curiosity, players will be able to purchase more effective chisels that speed up the cube’s destruction. Prices will range from about $1 to nearly $100,000 for a one-of-a-kind “diamond chisel.”

New Scientist reports that Molyneux wants to see whether curiosity will cause a single buyer to purchase the diamond chisel or if a “syndicate” of buyers will form via social media.

Media reports concerning when the final product will be released vary from two to three years.

The DCEMU gaming website describes Molyneux’s project as a “multi-format massively multiplayer game” alluding to the gaming industry’s move toward mobile technologies, such as smartphones and computer tablets, for which page formats are sized and designed differently than for computer monitor or TV screens connected to Xbox players.

A different kind of splash

Molyneux is both a joke and legend among fans. A good half of the write-ups after any press conference choose to focus on the man instead of whatever game he’s promoting to them. Fans and journalists alike, however, are quick to point out that he never quite delivers what he sells.

In various interviews, he’s blamed his over-promising on everything from joking to keep the press awake to just getting too excited about possibilities that developers were attempting to add. Whether he’s painted as a dreamer or a liar, Molyneux is never painted without a rather generous amount of color.

In a press conference about the first installment of Fable, Molyneux said the world would be so responsive that players could plant an acorn and watch it grow into a tree. Fans quickly became outraged, despite the game earning multiple accolades and becoming one of the most cherished Xbox games. The acorn became so iconic of failed promises that Molyneux and Lionhead added it as entire story-centric element in Fable II. It was the only tree that players could grow, but—it did in fact grow after players planted it.

A boy and his snails

Molyneux’s head-in-the-clouds approach to game development paid off (in imaginative efforts, anyway) when he got ahold of the Kinect before it was released. Microsoft’s foray into motion capture gaming hasn’t seen a more creative effort since, which is saying quite a lot since Molyneux’s game, Milo and Kate, wasn’t even produced.

Molyneux debuted the game at E3 in 2009, but it’s during his 11 minute TED talk that Milo really lets the technology shine. The over-395,000 views (at the time of this article) show that Molyneux has the power to completely capture our attention.

Milo (or Kate, if you decided to play with a girl), was a virtual boy who had just moved. He needed a friend, and a Kinect user was able to fill that slot quite nicely. Using gestures, you could teach Milo how to skip stones. Using your voice, you could reassure him that his parents loved him or that he would indeed find friends at school. You could teach Milo to squish snails, or you could teach him to just appreciate them.

 

Though the use of Kinect was revolutionary, it’s what didn’t get the chance to happen that was even more exciting. Milo, if he would’ve made it to consoles, would have learned from the cloud. Instead of a flat, pre-programmed AI, he would’ve actually gotten smarter every time someone played with him. Most notably, his vocabulary would’ve grown along with him.

Milo and Kate never made it, but the technology was eventually used to create Fable: The Journey, a mostly on-rails game that promises to let players develop a relationship to their horse and, like all Molyneux games, shape the world around them. The Journey has yet to debut, but critics are already wondering what of the promised features it will contain.

New beginnings for a legend

Molyneux reportedly left Microsoft (and Lionhead) to stretch his wings, a practice that has characterized his career. After failure in the gaming industry early on, Microsoft reports, Molyneux switched to exporting baked beans to the Middle East. But he canned that failing venture when the Commodore computer company mistook Molyneux’s Taurus exporting business for a software company called Torus.

Commodore asked Molyneux to help improve its Amiga computers for video games. Molyneux didn’t clear up their confusion about his company, but he did improve the Amiga and reclaim his original career direction.

Now Molyneux wants to take the next leap in moving the gaming industry toward greater interactivity with its customers. Molyneux’s unbridled curiosity is likely to increase the boom in mobile technologies and social media.

One post or tweet at a time, the bits of our lives shared through social media create a mosaic reflecting who we are. Whether we like it or not, this information may travel far beyond its intended audience, especially if we decide to join in Molyneux’s game.

 

[#ff entbuddha] “Making you a better geek, one post at a time!”

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